Lead(H)er - Rachel Bates, VP of Sales at Workable
“The gender balance of the sales team is pretty unique. As a big believer in female salespeople and sales executives, I wanted to make sure that when we recruited 40 people, we had a fifty-fifty split. It was difficult to recruit for but we were very adamant about it,” Rachel Bates, the VP of Sales at Workable explained.
As a Liverpool native, Rachel went to undergrad at the University of Birmingham where she studied international studies and political science. In her words, it was the “ultimate generalist degree.”
Initially, she wasn’t interested in a sales career. She didn’t know many adults in Liverpool who worked in business so she didn’t have much exposure to the industry.
She first realized that she might do well in a sales career when she landed a job working on a survey for a Ph.D. project.
“I had a job during college where I had to go into these small businesses everywhere around Liverpool. There was a wide variety. I had to talk to a professional football team, mechanics, engineers, bakeries—everything. Because of this, I had to adapt my communication style very quickly so I could have a conversation with them and they could participate in the survey. I realized I was very good at organizing the logistics and setting the goals for how many people I wanted to reach.”
Sixteen years ago, Rachel moved to the US with her husband, who is a US citizen. When she was first starting out, she didn’t know what direction to go in.
“At the time, I thought about going into nonprofits but I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I was looking at generalist roles and realized I didn’t have enough of the advanced skills they needed. Then, I came across a job at an educational travel company called Explorica. My job was helping teachers organize trips for their students and I thought it was an amazing opportunity. After looking into the role, I realized it was actually in sales. Although I never really set out to do sales, I realized I was actually pretty good at it once I got into it.”
After working as an individual contributor for a couple of years, Rachel became a team lead, sales manager and then eventually ran the entire sales team. She loved working with new college graduates and entry-level salespeople, helping to build a solid team.
After about nine years at Explorica, Rachel decided it was time to try out a different industry. At the time, she was getting her MBA at UMass Boston and became interested in the tech scene.
“I decided to make the move to Oracle where I got to work with some of the largest companies in the world on one of the largest sales teams. Going back to an individual contributor role was an interesting transition. There was a lot of new technology and process. But after about six months, I was able to transition a lot of skills that I brought with me from Explorica and I became one of the top sales reps. I later went on to lead a team. I had a fantastic experience during my three years there.”
Although she enjoyed her time at Oracle, Rachel felt like there was something missing. She wanted the chance to build a strategy, be creative and work with product and marketing teams. Deciding to make another career move, she accepted a position at Compete as their Senior Sales Director and was later promoted to the VP of Compete PRO Sales and Marketing.
“I joined Compete to run the sales team there and helped with marketing. It was a great chance to learn more about SaaS and a subscription model business. When that ended last year, I had a great opportunity to land my new role here at Workable.”
Rachel just celebrated her one year anniversary as Workable’s VP of Sales. When I asked her why she decided to originally join the company, she shared a few reasons with me.
“When I talked with Workable, I found out they had 6,000 customers without a sales team—that’s the sign of a good product. I saw an opportunity for me to make an impact by building the sales team. I also love the fact that it’s a global company that ties back to my degree in international studies.”
In one year’s time, Rachel has grown the sales team from 5 to 40.
Rapid Fire Questions
BS: How do you manage stress?
RB: I practice self-care. One would be, spending time with my family and being present when I’m there. Secondly, I’m a runner. Not particularly great but I’m doing a half marathon on Sunday and I’m doing one in every state. I’ve done 19 so far. So having a goal and having that as an outlet. Whether it’s just running on my own and unwinding... or running with friends and having a chance to socialize at the same time.
BS: How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?
RB: Seven. I make a full pot before I go running in the morning and probably have a few when I come into the office in the morning. We have pretty good coffee here.
BS: What do you like to do in your free time?
RB: Run and hang with family.
BS: Where is your favorite spot in Boston?
RB: I like looking at Boston from Cambridge. So, going down Memorial Drive. It gets me every single time.
BS: If you had to choose one thing, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
RB: My two boys. They’re 10 and 7, Dylan and Leo.
BS: Ten years ago, is this where you would have seen yourself?
RB: Ten years ago, I had a two-month-old. Yes, in a way. I knew I could be in this role and I knew that I could be across the table from people and know that I’m as good as them. I have that inner confidence or belief that I could get there.
BS: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a recent college graduate?
RB: Two things: You’ll never regret the money you spend on travel. Don’t be afraid to try new things and just go for it. Be okay with trying something for a year. You’ll learn what you like and what you don’t like.